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Homily on the Nativity of the Lord

December 25, 2009 Leave a comment

by St John Chrysostom

I behold a new and wondrous mystery!

My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn.

The Angels sing!

The Archangels blend their voices in harmony!

The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise!

The Seraphim exalt His glory!

All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.

Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side the Sun of Justice.

And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed, he had the power, He descended, He redeemed; all things move in obedience to God.

This day He Who Is, is Born; and He Who Is becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became he God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassibility, remaining unchanged.

And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.

Yet He has not forsaken His angels, nor left them deprived of His care, nor because of His Incarnation has he departed from the Godhead.

And behold,

Kings have come, that they might adore the heavenly King of glory;

Soldiers, that they might serve the Leader of the Hosts of Heaven;

Women, that they might adore Him Who was born of a woman so that He might change the pains of child-birth into joy;

Virgins, to the Son of the Virgin, beholding with joy, that He Who is the Giver of milk, Who has decreed that the fountains of the breast pour forth in ready streams, receives from a Virgin Mother the food of infancy;

Infants, that they may adore Him Who became a little child, so that out of the mouth of infants and sucklings, He might perfect praise;

Children, to the Child Who raised up martyrs through the rage of Herod;

Men, to Him Who became man, that He might heal the miseries of His servants;

Shepherds, to the Good Shepherd Who has laid down His life for His sheep;

Priests, to Him Who has become a High Priest according to the order of Melchisedech;

Servants, to Him Who took upon Himself the form of a servant that He might bless our servitude with the reward of freedom;

Fishermen, to Him Who from amongst fishermen chose catchers of men;

Publicans, to Him Who from amongst them named a chosen Evangelist;

Sinful women, to Him Who exposed His feet to the tears of the repentant;

And that I may embrace them all together, all sinners have come, that they may look upon the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sins of the world.

Since therefore all rejoice, I too desire to rejoice. I too wish to share the choral dance, to celebrate the festival. But I take my part, not plucking the harp, not shaking the Thyrsian staff, not with the music of pipes, nor holding a torch, but holding in my arms the cradle of Christ. For this is all my hope, this my life, this my salvation, this my pipe, my harp. And bearing it I come, and having from its power received the gift of speech, I too, with the angels, sing: Glory to God in the Highest; and with the shepherds: and on earth peace to men of good will.

Categories: Homilies

The Mystery of Our Lord’s Loving-Kindness

December 20, 2009 Leave a comment

By St John of Kronstadt—A Sermon on the Nativity of Christ



It is on this day that, throughout the entire inhabited world, the Holy Orthodox Church brings to our remembrance and observes that most majestic and sublime of mysteries: the Incarnation of God the-Word from a most pure virgin through an outpouring of, and an overshadowing by, God’s Holy Spirit.

Wondrous, inexpressible, and awesome is this mystery, both for the exalted and all-contemplating celestial minds of those who dwell in the heavens: the ranks of the angels, and for the minds of men, enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Imagine: The unoriginate God from Whom everything received the commencement of its existence: the Angels, the human race, and the entire world, both visible and invisible, takes a beginning in His humanity. He, Whom the heavens cannot contain, is contained in a virginal womb. God becomes an infant and is borne upon the arms of a Mother. He, Who nourishes every breath, is nourished by His creation.

The science of astronomy has learned and affirms that, in the order of creation, our earth is but a barely-noticeable point; that millions of planets around our own fill up the vastness of space. And, lo! This single point in the universe, this barely noticeable globe of God’s creation, being inhabited by men, our earth has now been accounted worthy of the inexpressible honor of bearing upon itself God-in-the-Flesh.

He is the God-Man Who did deign to dwell amongst men, to teach erring mankind the knowledge of God, to work innumerable miracles of good, to preach repentance and complete forgiveness of sins; to suffer and to die as a holy Sacrifice for the sins of the world, to be resurrected through the power of Divinity from amongst the dead, having vanquished death, which is natural to all men, and to make a gift of resurrection to the entire human race.

Not a single one of the visible worlds, save the earth, has been deemed worthy of this greatest of all honors: for it was only upon the earth that Jesus Christ, the only-begotten of the heavenly Father, had a virgin mother, and He alone was her Son by way of humanity. Why was the earth given such preference? Why was it only on earth that God appeared in the flesh? This is a great Divine mystery, a mystery of immeasurable loving-kindness and of God’s condescension to perishing mankind.

Thus, God did appear in the flesh: rejoice and be exceedingly glad, O earth; rejoice and celebrate, ye earth-born. The Creator Himself did come to you, in order to create you anew; to restore you, who were corrupted by transgressions. To you did He come: The almighty Physician Himself, powerful to treat all the inveterate afflictions of sin, in order that He might heal all the passions of the soul and all the infirmities of the body, all of which He truly did do, as we know from the Gospel and from the history of the Church.

Thus, greet Him joyfully, with pure minds and hearts, with bodies chaste and restrained by fasting and abstinence, which the Holy Church has thoughtfully instituted prior to this great feast in order to prepare us worthily to meet the Heavenly King, Who comes to us in order to abide in us.

He came to us with the mercy and good will of His heavenly Father, and from us He demands mercy toward our neighbors; He is the righteous King, and He demands of us all righteousness; for He, too, as a man, fulfilled all righteousness (Mt 3:15), showing us an example and providing us with grace and the strength to carry it out. He Himself did suffer for us, having borne the cross; and He taught us to deny ourselves, or our sins and our passions, and to follow after Him, doing what is holy out of reverence for God (2 Cor 7:1).

He came to heal our souls, ailing from sin, and commanded all to repent; let us ever, then, be earnestly contrite, correcting ourselves and striving toward holiness and perfection. The holy Angels, at the Nativity of the God-man, did declare peace unto the world; and unto men—the good will of the Heavenly Father. Let us then, ourselves, have within us a peaceful conscience, and let us be at peace with everyone, if possible. Be at peace and be holy with all, sayeth the apostle, for without this shall none see the Lord.

Amen.

Categories: Homilies

Faith In Christ Our Lord Brings Victory

November 28, 2009 Leave a comment

“Christ our Lord conquers the world, and the victory, is ours also. The Holy Apostles conquered the world, and that victory is ours also. Both the saints and the holy martyrs of our church have conquered the world, and the victory is again ours. There is nothing greater power in the world, then the Christian faith, the Holy Orthodox Faith we all love. The swords that cut off this faith are blunted and broken, but the Faith has remained. We know well from the history of our Church that many have tempted themselves to suffocate our Faith in Christ and His Church, however this Faith has again remained the victory is ours!

When the world rushes upon us, with illusions; especially with the temptations of its exterior beauty, the illusion of riches, of pleasure, and of transitory glory, with what shall we resist and by what shall we be victors but by this Faith? Truly, by nothing but this invincible Faith, which knows nothing better than any of the good things of this world?

We should be never spiritually interested in the face that the world offers us, but only to spiritually behold the face of our Lord God, and to behold Him, and in all His Glory, honor, and worship. Truly, nothing is so important for all Christians then to apply our Faith, which only teaches us endurance, and unchanging values in the Kingdom of God. What a great spiritual victory, as again this victory is ours!

We all can be victorious by faith in our Lord God! Do not ever be shameful about having faith, and being God loving Christians! We must spiritually resist that which is unholy, and see that which is truly holy, as we all know that our Gracious Lord Jesus Christ is the “Conqueror” of the world, who helps us also to conquer the world by faith in Him. Our purpose on this earth as Christians is to seek the Kingdom of our Lord God, therefore let us humbly, as well as piously seek it in faith and with faith. Our Lord God shall reward us, as we truly become victorious, as we have found the true Faith! The victory is ours!

Never for one moment believe that God does not hear you when you pray to Him. Pray with all your mind, heart, and soul, in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening, as well as when our loving Church calls us to pray. Go to Church to pray and in faith be victorious! Think about attending Church with your family and be victorious!

Our Church is waiting for you and loves you when you gather in prayer! Our faith in Christ our Lord brings victory; let our faith in Him begin

Peace to your soul!

Humbly in Christ our Lord,

+Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Who prays for you and with you!”

Categories: Spirituality

I thank you, God of goodness

November 14, 2009 Leave a comment

Christ Pantocrator

I fall in adoration at your feet, Lord!

I thank you, God of goodness;

God of holiness, I invoke you,

on my knees, in your sight.

For me, an unworthy sinner,

you have willed to undergo the death of the cross,

setting me free from the bonds of evil.

What shall I offer in return for your generosity?

Glory to you, friend of men!

Glory to you, most merciful!

Glory to you, most patient!

Glory to you who forgive sin!

Glory to you who have come to save us!

Glory to you who have been made man in the womb of a Virgin!

Glory to you who have been bound!

Glory to you who have been scourged!

Glory to you who have been derided!

Glory to you who have been nailed to the cross!

Glory to you, laid in a sepulcher, but risen again!

Glory to you who have preached the Gospel to men and have been

believed!

Glory to you who have ascended to heaven!

Glory to you, seated at the right hand of the Father

and who will return with him, in majesty, among the angels,

to judge those who have disregarded your passion!

The powers of heaven will be shaken;

all the angels and archangels, the cherubim and seraphim

will appear in fear and trembling before Your glory;

the foundations of the earth will quake

and all that has life will cry out before Your majesty.

In that hour let your hand draw me beneath Your wings,

and save me from the terrible fire, from the gnashing of teeth,

from the outer darkness and from despair without end.

That I may sing to Your glory:

Glory to Him who through His merciful goodness

has designed to redeem this sinner.

attributed to St. Ephrem the Syrian

Categories: Orthodox poetry

The Vine And Its Branches

November 6, 2009 Leave a comment

Iisus_-_pomul_vietii

from The Spiritual Writings of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk


What the vine and branches are to each other, so are Christ and Christians to one another. The vine and branches are united with each other. So likewise are Christ and Christians spiritually united. The same branches receive their sap from the vine and bear fruit: the same is it with Christians.

They receive life from Christ, Who helps them to lead good lives and do good deeds. While fruit is seen on the branches, yet it is in the vine that finds the cause of the fruit; and like wise when Christians do good deeds, this is credited to Christ, the Son of God. Branches alone without the vine cannot bear fruit; and Christians without Christ can do nothing.

The branches are trimmed (cleansed) in order that they might bring forth better fruit; so likewise Christians are punished at times by the heavenly Father that they might bring better fruit in the form of good deeds. Branches are not especially pleasing to the eye, but inwardly they have good, sweet and pleasant sap, and bear fruit; so is it with Christians; outwardly they are not pleasing to the eye, and scorned, but inwardly are good, and live good lives.

The more the branches are laden with fruit, the more are these branches inclined to the earth. So likewise is it with the Christian. The more good deeds performs, the more humble he becomes. The branches bear fruit for the husband man, and the Christians perform good works for the glory of God, from Whom all good comes. The branch that does not bring forth fruit is cut off from the vine dries up, so likewise is it with a Christian who is cut off from Christ; he loses all his vitality and dies spiritually. The branch that has dried up is not useful and more except to be burned; and so it with a Christian cut off from Christ; he is dried up and left for eternal fire (St. John 15:4).

From this you see, O Christian:


1. What a close union and communion there is between true Christians and their Lord Jesus Christ. He is the vine, and they are the branches.

2. What a great and high dignity there is in this. What is there greater than to have communion with Christ, the Heavenly King?

3. How blessed they must be. If Christ is with Christians, then who can prevail against them? The whole world and hades cannot do anything to a Christian, for Christ is his refuge and strength.

4. Without Christ it is impossible to be benevolent and to do good deeds since branches cannot be fruitful without the vine

5. From here follows that it is necessary first to to be in Christ and so do good works; it is necessary first to become good and then do good deeds. A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit (St. Matthew 7:18).

6. What a sad condition those Christians are in, who by an evil life have fallen away from Christ. For they are like withered branches.

7. Whoever wishes to be saved must turn to the Lord with a pure heart, and must cleanse oneself with repentance and tears, and in such a manner unite with Christ, the True Vine. For without Christ there is no salvation. Christ is Life and Light. He who has departed from Life and Light must then be in death and darkness. Consider this, O Christian, and with tears and repentance wash away your sins, that you may once again be united with Christ – your very life.”


Source: Orthodox Life., Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, N.Y., Issue 5 Number 53, 1958., pp. 15-16

Elder Arsenie – On Suffering

October 18, 2009 Leave a comment

Vodpod videos no longer available.

St John the “Apostle of Love”

September 27, 2009 1 comment

The Holy, Glorious All-laudable Apostle and Evangelist, Virgin, and Beloved Friend of Christ, John the Theologian was the son of Zebedee and Salome, a daughter of St Joseph the Betrothed. He was called by our Lord Jesus Christ to be one of His Apostles at the same time as his elder brother James. This took place at Lake Gennesareth (i.e. the Sea of Galilee). Leaving behind their father, both brothers followed the Lord.

The Apostle John was especially loved by the Savior for his sacrificial love and his virginal purity. After his calling, the Apostle John did not part from the Lord, and he was one of the three apostles who were particularly close to Him. St John the Theologian was present when the Lord restored the daughter of Jairus to life, and he was a witness to the Transfiguration of the Lord on Mount Tabor.

During the Last Supper, he reclined next to the Lord, and laid his head upon His breast. He also asked the name of the Savior’s betrayer. The Apostle John followed after the Lord when they led Him bound from the Garden of Gethsemane to the court of the iniquitous High Priests Annas and Caiphas. He was there in the courtyard of the High Priest during the interrogations of his Teacher and he resolutely followed after him on the way to Golgotha, grieving with all his heart. At the foot of the Cross he stood with the Mother of God and heard the words of the Crucified Lord addressed to Her from the Cross: “Woman, behold Thy son.” Then the Lord said to him, “Behold thy Mother” (John 19:26-27). From that moment the Apostle John, like a loving son, concerned himself over the Most Holy Virgin Mary, and he served Her until Her Dormition.

Rastignirea

After the Dormition of the Mother of God the Apostle John went to Ephesus and other cities of Asia Minor to preach the Gospel, taking with him his own disciple Prochorus. They boarded a ship, which floundered during a terrible tempest. All the travellers were cast up upon dry ground, and only the Apostle John remained in the depths of the sea. Prochorus wept bitterly, bereft of his spiritual father and guide, and he went on towards Ephesus alone. On the fourteenth day of his journey he stood at the shore of the sea and saw that the waves had cast a man ashore. Going up to him, he recognized the Apostle John, whom the Lord had preserved alive for fourteen days in the sea.


Teacher and disciple went to Ephesus, where the Apostle John preached incessantly to the pagans about Christ. His preaching was accompanied by such numerous and great miracles, that the number of believers increased with each day. During this time there had begun a persecution of Christians under the emperor Nero (56-68). They took the Apostle John for trial at Rome. St John was sentenced to death for his confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but the Lord preserved His chosen one. The apostle drank a cup of deadly poison, but he remained alive. Later, he emerged unharmed from a cauldron of boiling oil into which he had been thrown on orders from the torturer.

After this, they sent the Apostle John off to imprisonment to the island of Patmos, where he spent many years. Proceeding along on his way to the place of exile, St John worked many miracles. On the island of Patmos, his preaching and miracles attracted to him all the inhabitants of the island, and he enlightened them with the light of the Gospel. He cast out many devils from the pagan temples, and he healed a great multitude of the sick. Sorcerers with demonic powers showed great hostility to the preaching of the holy apostle. He especially frightened the chief sorcerer of them all, named Kinops, who boasted that they would destroy the apostle. But the great John, by the grace of God acting through him, destroyed all the demonic artifices to which Kinops resorted, and the haughty sorcerer perished in the depths of the sea. The Apostle John withdrew with his disciple Prochorus to a desolate height, where he imposed upon himself a three-day fast. As St John prayed the earth quaked and thunder rumbled. Prochorus fell to the ground in fright. The Apostle John lifted him up and told him to write down what he was about to say. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord, Who is and Who was and Who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev 1:8), proclaimed the Spirit of God through the Apostle John.

St John - St Prohoros (small) St. John with his disciple Prochorus

Thus in about the year 67 the Book of Revelation was written, known also as the “Apocalypse,” of the holy Apostle John the Theologian. In this Book were predictions of the tribulations of the Church and of the end of the world. After his prolonged exile, the Apostle John received his freedom and returned to Ephesus, where he continued with his activity, instructing Christians to guard against false teachers and their erroneous teachings. In the year 95, the Apostle John wrote his Gospel at Ephesus. He called for all Christians to love the Lord and one another, and by this to fulfill the commands of Christ. The Church calls St John the “Apostle of Love”, since he constantly taught that without love man cannot come near to God. In his three Epistles, St John speaks of the significance of love for God and for neighbor. Already in his old age, he learned of a youth who had strayed from the true path to follow the leader of a band of robbers, so St John went out into the wilderness to seek him. Seeing the holy Elder, the guilty one tried to hide himself, but the Apostle John ran after him and besought him to stop. He promised to take the sins of the youth upon himself, if only he would repent and not bring ruin upon his soul. Shaken by the intense love of the holy Elder, the youth actually did repent and turn his life around. St John when he was more than a hundred years old he far outlived the other eyewitnesses of the Lord, and for a long time he remained the only remaining eyewitness of the earthly life of the Savior.

When it was time for the departure of the Apostle John, he went out beyond the city limits of Ephesus with the families of his disciples. He bade them prepare for him a cross-shaped grave, in which he lay, telling his disciples that they should cover him over with the soil. The disciples tearfully kissed their beloved teacher, but not wanting to be disobedient, they fulfilled his bidding. They covered the face of the saint with a cloth and filled in the grave. Learning of this, other disciples of St John came to the place of his burial. When they opened the grave, they found it empty.

Each year from the grave of the holy Apostle John on May 8 came forth a fine dust, which believers gathered up and were healed of sicknesses by it. Therefore, the Church also celebrates the memory of the holy Apostle John the Theologian on May 8. The Lord bestowed on His beloved disciple John and John’s brother James the name “Sons of Thunder” as an awesome messenger in its cleansing power of the heavenly fire. And precisely by this the Savior pointed out the flaming, fiery, sacrificial character of Christian love, the preacher of which was the Apostle John the Theologian. The eagle, symbol of the lofty heights of his theological thought, is the iconographic symbol of the Evangelist John the Theologian. The appellation “Theologian” is bestown by Holy Church only to St John among the immediate disciples and Apostles of Christ, as being the seer of the mysterious Judgments of God.

The feast of the Metastasis of St John the Theologian in celebrated on September 26th

+

Apolytikion (2nd Tone)


Beloved Apostle of Christ our God,
hasten to deliver a people without defense.
He who permitted you to recline upon His bosom,
accepts you on bended knee before Him.
Beseech Him, O Theologian, to dispel the persistent cloud of nations,
asking for us peace and great mercy.

Categories: Lives of Saints